The spread of non-competition to low-wage work was felt across the country last year, when the Huffington Post reported that Jimmy John`s had signed competition bans on some of its permanent workers who covered sandwich vendors in the three miles of Jimmy John`s sites. Members of the U.S. Congress have called for a federal investigation into the sandwich chain`s use of the agreements. Amazon`s contract seems more extreme: not only is it pushed towards temporary agency workers, whose chances are inevitably reduced by their planned dismissal, but it is also explicitly in its potentially unlimited geographical scope. It`s unclear whether Amazon tried to impose its bans on competing with warehouse workers every hour, and Amazon did not respond when asked by The Verge about it. But the company has a history of aggressively prosecuting such cases against employees. Last year, after a former Amazon marketing manager took a job at Google, Amazon filed a lawsuit against him to test the limits of the non-compete clause. The willingness of the courts to validate such agreements can vary considerably from one country to another. But whether the courts are prepared to enforce them, competition bans can still influence workers` behaviour. Several former Amazon workers in Kansas and Tennessee said they had vague memories of signing a non-compete clause, but hadn`t given it much thought. Two workers who left amazon`s storage jobs in 2012 and 2013 said they had no recollection of signing a non-compete clause. It`s unclear when Amazon began getting warehouse workers to sign that deal, and the company hasn`t responded to Questions from The Verge about it.
Two other Amazon employees, approached by The Verge, cited the confidentiality agreement they had signed with the company by refusing to share their experience for this story. The supplier shall ensure that its personnel comply with these conditions and their respective confidentiality agreements. Signing non-compete clauses is more common in states that are more prone to enforcing treaties, according to preliminary results from a study conducted by scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and the University of Michigan. The document, which surveyed more than 10,000 workers across the country with an online survey, also shows that competition bans prevail in jobs that often require little training. The survey showed that at least 12 percent of U.S. workers or at least 19 million Americans work under the agreements. The paper showed that about 9 per cent of the transport and warehouse workers who participated in the investigation worked under conditions of non-competition. (This statistic is an underestimate, says Evan Starr, a co-author of the study, because many people who sign non-rules of non-competition don`t know they did.) The document also states that the millions of low-skilled workers who sign the contracts “are much less likely to negotiate their non-compete clauses, but they receive little in return for signing, but may bear serious costs.” A lack of bargaining power can lead workers to sign non-compete clauses, Lobel says, and these treaties continue to undermine their bargaining power. Since non-compete agreements make job losses more dangerous by limiting employment opportunities, agreements may bind workers to their current employment, making them less likely to address complaints with management or try to find better or more suitable employment. The work is repetitive and physically strenuous and can pay several dollars above the minimum wage, but Amazon requires these workers — even seasonal ones — to have strict and extensive competition bans.